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How To Series: Seat Time: Take a seat as we rebuild these GTO thrones

By Jefferson Bryant

Recently, after the purchase of a new project car, I experienced something a few of you have probably also encountered. I was attempting to get the car running right after it arrived on the trailer. Being anxious, I hopped in, and that‘s when it hit me — right in the upper buttock. It is never nice getting stabbed by a sharp spring in the back, even worse when it‘s cold — the low temp just seems to amplify things.

Of course, I should have paid more attention, I just didn‘t think about it. All of which brings us to the point — interior restoration. Perfect paint, the right engine and Polyglas tires can‘t overcome a ratty interior. While the interior of a car always takes the brunt of the abuse, the front seats get it the worst. After years of ins and outs, spills and other atrocities, the upholstery in most any musclecar is going to be trashed. The big question is what to do about it.

Most towns of any size should have an auto upholstery shop that would be capable of sewing up some seat covers, but is a custom-sewn seat cover appropriate for your restoration? In some cases custom is the only option, but for most musclecars, there is a specialty dealer that offers reproduction interior products. For GM cars, Original Parts Group is a premier supplier of restoration products, including a complete line of interiors. With, you could rebuild an entire interior for some models, using all new parts.

To go through the process, we contacted Redline Motorsports in Ardmore, Oklahoma, as they restored the interior of a 1969 GTO Judge using parts. The seats in the Judge had certainly seen better days; the seams were split, the seat backs broken and UV deteriorated, definitely in need of restoration.

Recovering a set of seats requires a couple of specialized tools you might not find in every toolbox. First, you need a heat gun to loosen the vinyl so it stretches and conforms to the foam. Additionally, a pair of hog-ring pliers is needed to secure the cover to the frames. Other than that, most builders should have the tools needed to complete the task at home in about a day. As a side note, while a few of the items replaced could have been repaired and reused; we chose to replace them to bring the seats back to their original condition, as in off-the-showroom floor.

Just remember — always watch where you sit.

1. The original interior was pretty much destroyed. The lower seat plastics were missing as well. has replacements however.

2. Before beginning the tear down, the new seat covers were unpacked, unfolded and left to sit out. This helps get the wrinkles and creases out of the vinyl, which makes everything fit better.

3. The rear seats were much simpler, so we started there. The old hog rings were snipped off.

4. The cover was then removed, exposing the cotton lining. This pad was left in place, as it wasn‘t in bad shape.

5. Gary of Redline Motorsports placed some polyester batting over the cotton for a little extra cush. This was hog ringed in place around the perimeter.

6. The original stainless badges from the seat backs were cut out and tabs bent, releasing the retainer backing.

7. The original placement of these badges is one inch from the center of the upper V. Tip — a piece of green painter‘s tape works as a prefect guide. This step is the same for the front seats.

8. The inside of the front seats had been home to many a tasty snack over the years. The seats are disassembled and stripped of all the vinyl.

9. The original foam was broken down and covered in mildew. Time for a replacement.

10. The headrest guides are removed for reinstallation. All the mounting hardware was kept with each piece as it was removed.

11. With the foam removed, we saw the spring were broken too. While these could have been repaired, there were too many to make it worth the trouble. The springs need to be replaced too.

12. The tabs on the base were slightly bent out to release the spring set.

13. With the new springs in place, Gary used a punch to bend the tabs back in place.

14. The seat springs were covered with a piece of burlap to protect the new foam from the springs. If this step is skipped, the springs will cut right through the foam, rendering it useless. The burlap is held in place with hog rings.

15. Other pieces needed from the original covers were the wire inserts inside the loose flaps and around the perimeter of the covers. The location of each wire was noted and inserted in the correct location.

16. The seat covers are set on the foam and aligned. The wire sleeve was hog ringed through the foam to the springs. The sequence of rings is center-out side-to-side. This assures the cover will be in the correct location.

17. To make sliding the cover over the new foam easier, the Redline crew laid a plastic trash bag over the edge of the seat. Don‘t worry about noise, the seat covers fit too tight for the plastic to crinkle.

18. A heat gun was used to loosen the vinyl at the corners. It is important to be careful here; too much will met the vinyl and ruin the seats.

19. The inside edges of the cover were attached to the springs. Always work from the center out, leaving about half of the hog ring spaces out. This allows for adjustment. If each side is ringed all at once, the seat will probably have wrinkles. The rest of the rings were added after each side was adjusted.

20. The outer layer of the cover was attached to the seat frame itself. It might help to take pictures as you go during disassembly to make it easier during the installation process.

21. The seat bottoms were the most difficult on the last section. Gary really had to pull hard to make the cover stretch.

22. Before covering the seat back, the foam is cut for the headrest guides.

23. Again, the seat cover was attached to the springs through the foam pad. The same steps were followed throughout the install.

24. The newly restored seats were reassembled.

25. OPG supplied new seat backs, sides and trim. The new chrome push buttons required a good deal of pressure to install.

26. These are the available headrest buttons. While not 100 percent correct for this model. They do the job. The original Pontiac versions are no longer available.

27. The completed interior looks fresh from the showroom floor. You might notice how pooched the centers of the seats are. This is normal; the seats will break in with some use.

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